Republican Grace Cangemi closed out her 21-month tenure on the Red Bank Council last night with pointed attacks on Democratics for “behind the curtain” decision-making.
In her final appearance before the council goes all-Democrat on January 1, Cangemi criticized the majority for pulling from the December 8 agenda an ordinance she wanted to introduce. The measure which she did not describe in detail but said might have saved the town $36,000 was yanked, she says she was told, because it had not been discussed in the “workshop” portion of any prior meeting.
The requirement that a bill be workshopped, or discussed informally, “apparently was not the case when our water rates were raised 10 percent” last March, she said. She added that an ordinance to increase the number of taxi licenses in the borough was also introduced without a word of mention in any workshop sessions.
In fact, no member of the governing body has publicly taken responsibility for sponsoring the taxi bill, which was withdrawn after an outcry by taxi owners. Officials claimed the bill had been drafted by borough Attorney Tom Hall at the request of borough Clerk Carol Vivona.
“I am greatly disturbed when an elected council person” can’t get a bill posted for vote “because they’re in the wrong party,” yet an unelected official can, Cangemi said.
“I’m sorry it’s my last meeting that I have anything negative to say here,” she said.
But her wrath was redoubled a short while later when Councilwoman Kathleen Horgan reported that the council’s education and technology committee was recommending a vendor to build the borough’s new website. Cangemi, a member of the committee, said she had neither been consulted about the choice nor told the of any committee meetings on the topic for the past year.
“The tech side of the committee is thrilled to report we will have a new website beginning in January,” Horgan said. With a system that enables users to sign up for email and text alerts for everything from emergencies to community events, “this will encompass what we really need for Red Bank.”
She said the committee was recommending the council hire C3 Citizen Communication Center of Nutley to build the system and maintain it for $2,000 per month. The company also built the Fair Haven and Middletown websites.
Cangemi, though, appeared surprised by the announcement, and said she had not not been been included in any discussions leading up to it.
“I’m a member of this committee,” which also included Democrat Mike DuPont, she said. “I don’t know how it happened, where it happened. I can’t stand behind this because I don’t know a damn thing about it.”
“Well, Grace, i did tell you we were working on it,” Horgan replied, before apologizing for not bringing Cangemi into the process.
Cangemi, though, was not appeased. “Let the minutes reflect that it’s not a committee recommendation. It’s a recommendation of Councilwoman Horgan, whose opinion I greatly respect,” she said.
In response to inquiries about whether the choice should be put up for bid, Horgan and borough Administrator Stanley Sickels said that the state Division of Local Government Services deems website design as exempt from bidding requirements. Sickels noted also that C3 principal John Carrino has a patent on the system.
“The proprietary nature of this is something you can’t compare” for bidding purposes, said Mayor Pasquale Menna.
“It may be a patent, but there may be other ones out there, and we never had that discussion,” Cangemi said. “It’s a little behind-the-curtain. It just doesn’t smack of being open enough.”
The council’s other Republican, Jim Giannell, said he, too, would have preferred to know what competing technology exists and how it compares to C3’s.
“Although the methodology may have been flawed, we started this one-and-a-half to two years ago,” said DuPont. “The borough residents deserve a website.”
“It’s a little bit bigger than a flawed methodolgy,” Cangemi replied. “It was a year without a meeting. I was duly appointed by this mayor to serve on this committee. We deserve an open process, and this is not an open process.”
Cangemi lost her bid for re-election in November; Giannell was appointed in August to complete the term of John Curley, who moved out of town. They’ll be replaced next month by Democrats Juanita Lewis and Ed Zipprich.
Here’s the website resolution: Download 08-265.pdf